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Darren Till doesn’t want to engage in wars that already have some fighters slurring speech

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Darren Till can’t exactly predict how his battle with Robert Whittaker will play out on Saturday night. But one thing is crystal clear: He’s not gunning for a “Fight of the Night” award.

In the lead-up to their main event clash at UFC on ESPN 14, Whittaker makes his first appearance since a knockout loss to Israel Adesanya this past October that cost him the middleweight title. The defeat followed a pair of back-and-forth wars with Yoel Romero, which ultimately resulted in wins – but Whittaker certainly didn’t walk away unscathed.

While the now-former champ took home a pair of post-fight bonuses, he also absorbed 263 strikes over 10 rounds spent in the octagon with Romero. He then took 40 strikes in his fight with Adesanya before falling by second-round TKO.

As he prepares for their main event meeting this weekend, Till isn’t counting on Whittaker’s chin being compromised after several brutal battles in consecutive contests. But he also understands it’s impossible for those kinds of fights not to take a toll over time.

“One big thing I’ve always known throughout my career, the wars take the toll on you, and whoever you are, you can see them taking the toll,” Till told MMA Fighting during the UFC on ESPN 14 media day.

“No disrespect, but when you look at guys like Justin Gaethje, and I look at Max Holloway now, and sometimes I seem glimpses of them slurring a little bit cause of the wars they’ve been in. All respect to the wars, but it ain’t a smart choice when you’re fighting.”

Rather than engaging in a contest where it’s a race to see who can endure the most damage, Till prefers a more defensive approach when thinking about his ideal career in the UFC. Whether it’s Whittaker, Adesanya or anybody else, the British-born slugger hopes to walk away from fighting with all of his facilities intact.

“You want to sort of look in the direction of someone like Floyd Mayweather,” Till explained. “Someone like that. He’s 40-plus [years old], whatever he is now, and he’s got all his brain cells because he hardly got hit.

“So I think them wars, they take the toll on you, and they do take the toll on your chin. I think anyone I touch anyway at middleweight, I found myself I’m going to hurt with that left hand but we’ll see.”

While he’s largely avoided fights like Whittaker had with Romero in the past, Till isn’t immune from making mistakes and paying for them. Perhaps there’s no greater example than his fight last year with Jorge Masvidal that ended with Till laid out flat in front of a home audience in England.

That fight precipitated Till’s eventual move to middleweight, but he knows the mistake made against Masvidal is one he can ill afford against Whittaker.

“Always stick to the game plan,” Till said about his strategy to fight the former UFC middleweight champion. “If only I had done it against Masvidal, I would probably be on the cover of EA Sports right now.

“You can’t fight every fight [with] perfection, and it’s not like that. The fight game is certainly not like that, especially in MMA. That’s why it doesn’t matter who you’re fighting, they could have a big belly, you can never underestimate or overlook any fighter. I sort of overlooked Masvidal a bit because he was a bit tinier. I beat Stephen Thompson, and Stephen Thompson beat him comfortably. Maybe I did. Maybe on my part I did [underestimate him], but you live and you learn.”

Assuming he can stick to the strategy his head coach has laid out for him, Till predicts that he’ll have a lot to celebrate come Saturday night.

“Me knocking him out hopefully,” Till said when asked how his fight with Whittaker will end. “I don’t ever imagine him knocking me out. That’s it. I imagine myself knocking him out hopefully.”